The public is being invited to have its say on plans to add the number of calories to menus in the out of home food sector including cafes, restaurants and takeaways.
Mandatory calorie labelling is part of action to address obesity which, with two-thirds of the population living in Scotland recorded as living with overweight or obesity, continues to be one of the biggest and most complex public health challenges.
Eating out is common place with almost everyone in Scotland (98%) consuming food outside the home, however nutrition information is not always available.
A 12-week consultation, which sets out the broad types of food and drink that would be covered, will seek views on how this could apply to:
food and hospitality businesses, depending on their size
public sector institutions such as hospitals and prisons
pre-packed food such as filled sandwiches
online takeaway menus
It will inform whether legislation is introduced to make it a legal requirement for calories to be included on menus and forms part of the government’s wider actions to ensure Scotland is a place where we eat well and have a healthy weight, including our aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
Mandating calorie labelling at the point of choice could support the food and hospitality sector to make a key contribution in improving dietary health.
Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:
“Before the pandemic, people living in Scotland were consuming more and more food and drink out of home or ordering it in.
“Whether it’s breakfast at a roadside café, grabbing a lunchtime soup and sandwich from a local convenience store or ordering food online from a restaurant, most of us were increasingly buying food outside the home – a trend I expect to resume as we recover from the pandemic.
“Two-thirds of the population living in Scotland is recorded as living with overweight or obesity – a key factor in our plan to address this is calorie labelling.
“We know that giving people more information, such as the number of calories in meals will enable people to make healthier choices when eating out, or ordering in.
“This is not novel practice – calories are already required on retail food purchases and calorie labelling for out of home sites is mandated in many other countries.
“Many food companies in Scotland have already taken this significant step voluntarily.
“We want to learn from those experiences and I would urge everyone to share their thoughts in this consultation.”
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) Head of Nutrition Science and Policy Dr Gillian Purdon said:
“We welcome the launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation on mandatory calorie labelling for the out of home sector.
“FSS has long proposed the introduction of mandatory calorie labelling as part of a suite of recommendations to address the nation’s poor diet.
“Alongside the consultation, we published the findings of two reports which highlight that overall, calorie information at point of choice can reduce the amount of calories ordered or consumed.
“With eating out is now an everyday occurrence and nearly a quarter of our calories coming from food and drink purchased outside of home, mandatory calorie labelling is one way to support people to make healthier options.”
Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium Ewan McDonald-Russell said:
“Our members in grocery and food-to-go have led the way in providing calorie and nutritional information to consumers, over and above the action they have taken to promote healthier alternatives and reformulate products to reduce their salt, sugar and fat content.
“Ensuring customers of all organisations serving food understand exactly what they are consuming empowers them to make the right choices to ensure they maintain a balanced diet.
“Introducing a mandatory approach to calorie labelling is therefore a reasonable proposition, provided it is implemented in a sensible manner and is applied to all businesses serving food and drink.
“The pandemic has laid bare many of the health inequalities in Scotland – measures need to apply across industry to ensure the most effective outcome and ensure firms which have taken positive action in this area are able to compete on a level playing field.”